The Cougars started the night on an 8-0 run and found a way to finish for a 78-71 win over their neighbors across the Little Niangua.

Climax Springs quickly went to work Monday night against Macks Creek.

The Cougars started the night on an 8-0 run and found a way to finish for a 78-71 win over their neighbors across the Little Niangua.

“We got off to a 15-0 run last time and they beat us so the way we finished is what I was real pleased with,” Climax Springs coach James Butterfield said. “We had yet to finish a game where there was some pressure put on us. We are young, and I know I say that all the time at the guard position, but they are coming and it finally came around tonight.”

And Macks Creek certainly made the Cougars earn their first win over the Pirates since 2012 when Climax Springs had previously enjoyed a 10-game winning streak over its rival. Since that time, Macks Creek had beaten Climax Springs in 15 straight games.

After seeing a 19-point lead shrink to seven by the fourth quarter and despite coughing up nine turnovers in the final frame, the Cougars ended the streak.

“We could not turn it over because we are not good at finishing games and we kind of get down, but our team did not really get down tonight against our arch rival,” Climax Springs freshman Mark Henderson said. “We pulled through and got it done.”

Like any team that finds a way to win, defense was a factor as Climax Springs managed to get Macks Creek off to a sluggish start and keep the Pirates out of rhythm for a good chunk of the night. Macks Creek junior Hunter Lane, who has recorded a double-double in every game he has played, had two early fouls in the first quarter and the Cougars took advantage of his absence.

“Where they really hurt us the last time we played them was that we did not get out on some kids. We have a philosophy here that if you are playing you need to be guarded,” Butterfield said with a smile of getting a hand in the shooter’s face. “Well, they put some kids in that were more than capable and did not start the game, but we did not get out and guard them. We know Hunter is going to score some points and we are going to do the best we can to slow him down, but you have to stop everyone else.

“Tonight, I thought we did a better job of that.”

Macks Creek gave up 14 turnovers in the first half, finished the night with 24 and it is a trend Coach Ron Duggan said cannot continue.

“We are averaging 18 (points) a quarter and we had 23 points at halftime. We did not play well and did not come out ready and that is on me,” the coach remarked. “I got to get the guys ready to go and I guarantee we’ll be ready the next game, but we certainly were not ready tonight... They are a quick team and played really hard and we were not up to the task. It was as simple as that.”

Meanwhile, Climax Springs built up its lead and the Cougars were led by Henderson’s 29 points while senior Jake Reed added 21, sophomore Cole Smith chipped in eight and fellow sophomore James McCartney knocked down seven.

As Macks Creek tried to close the gap, the Cougars also kept the Pirates at bay by finishing 65 percent as a team at the free throw line. Henderson himself was 12-14 to lead the Cougars at a solid 85 percent.

“I’ve been having a big struggle and Coach (Craig) Parrack and Butterfield have been really helping me. I have not been shooting good at all and they have really turned it around,” Henderson said. “Now I’m starting to make some and I guess that helped.”

It is not the only thing Butterfield was pleased with from the young freshman.

“He controlled things and shot with confidence. He went through that freshman funk about halfway through the season, and he did not say it, but he did not think he was good anymore,” the coach said. “He dominated junior high and then you come and can’t dominate in high school. We just stayed with him and told him it would be fine. He played well last week in a tournament and has finally turned the corner I hope. He does a lot for us, he really does.”

Butterfield was also glad to see some balance on the offensive end when junior Jesse McCartney, who is averaging 14 points, dealt with some foul trouble. If the young guys get going, the head man said his team can be hard to beat.

“What is really exceptional is that our second-leading scorer had three points. He battled and had eight rebounds but we were telling him he had a nice game,” the coach said. “Some nights you get in foul trouble, but his teammates picked him up tonight. If he is in the game our offense flows better, but I was real happy and everyone did a good job tonight that came off the bench.”

Macks Creek made a push late with a 9-0 run in the fourth, but it was too little too late as the clock ran out on the Pirates.

“We’ve got to play with that kind of intensity the whole game. We cannot wait til the fourth quarter to start playing,” Duggan said of the effort. “That is the thing we just have a hard time understanding... We have a tendency when we get down and then we are fighting back and decide to turn it up. It is a basketball IQ thing and I’ve said it before that we need to be a little smarter out on the court.”

Lane paced the Pirates with 25 points and 14 rebounds, junior Colton Walter knocked down 16 points, senior Zane Whitworth finished with 15 points and senior Oscar Cortez scored five points to go with nine assists. It was not a completely woeful night for the Pirates, though, as Lane scored his 1,000th career point with 1:58 left to go in the fourth and heard a chorus of loud cheers from Pirate fans.

“I was really proud of Hunter and I think Zane will probably hit his tomorrow night. It is great for those guys and what an accomplishment,” Duggan remarked. “Of course, Hunter is a junior so he has got a lot left and I think he had 36 points his freshman year so quite an accomplishment in two year. He is going to get better and better and I’m excited for the rest of this season and certainly looking forward to next year with him.”

Duggan also noted that it was nice to see Whitworth and Walter knocking down some 3-pointers which will be needed when teams pack the paint to stop Lane. Now, Macks Creek (13-10, 4-3 Polk County League) will seek to get back on track and finish out the season strong. The Pirates were scheduled to host Halfway on Tuesday and will take on Calvary Lutheran on Friday at 7 p.m.

“We have to take care of the ball and have a purpose on offense being a little more patient at times. I love to push the ball, but you like to do it with some control and we were a little bit out of control tonight,” the coach pointed out. “Climax Springs did a good job and took us out of some things we want to do, but it was there all night and we just did not do a very good job of finishing shots around the rim. The intensity level has to be there from the get go and we are getting there, but it is a little slower than I would have hoped for.”

Climax Springs (10-12) was scheduled to wrap up the regular season against Niangua on Tuesday and will begin district tournament play as the fourth seed against No. 5 Hermitage on February 19 at 6 p.m., in Weaubleau. Henderson said he wants to keep the season alive for Reed’s final season and time will soon tell if the Cougars are ready for a postseason run.

“The thing is we’ve been playing some good basketball for about a month and had very little to show for it,” Butterfield noted. “I told them to just keep plugging away because when you tell kids if you keep working and by the end of the year is when it matters, you want to be winning some games... This is the right time to be going and I feel like it is finally starting to pay off for them and they are starting to see it.”